One of the more short-lived routes in the United States Federal highway system, US Highway 216 was created in 1930 as the second spur of the (then) transcontinental US Highway 16. At the time of its commissioning, US 216's route was located entirely in the state of Wyoming. Dale Sanderson reports that it was designed “to serve as a connector between US 16 at Moorcroft and US 85 at Newcastle”.
Starting at Moorcroft, US 216 headed in a southeasterly direction to the village of Upton. Research has turned up little of interest regarding Upton, other than that it seems to offer beautiful surroundings for those interested in a place to retire. For those interested in moving on, US 216 continued on toward its terminus at Newcastle.
Newcastle holds a bit more interest for the visiting motorist. Billed as the “Western Gateway to the Black Hills”, the town presents a meeting of various types of prairie grass, and is located 'an easy drive' from the Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Devil's Tower. Here, US 216 reached its eastern end at a junction with US 85.
The situation changed in 1933, when US 216 was extended eastward to Rapid City, South Dakota. Now, travellers could press on and, once in South Dakota, visit the Jewel Cave National Monument. At 138 miles, Jewel Cave is the second largest cave system in the world and became a national monument upon proclamation by US President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908.
The highway continued on to Custer, named for the unfortunate General Custer, and is the site of the first major gold discovery in the Black Hills. Leaving Custer, US 216 passed through Custer State Park, winding its way to the village of Hermosa. There, the highway turned due north for the final run to Rapid City. With the famed Badlands nearby, US 216 ended in Rapid City at a junction with its parent, US 16.
US 216's fate changed once more, in 1934. That year, the American Association of State Highway Officials (today's AASHTO) decided to extend US 14 westward along the route of the existing US 16, and to reroute US 16 through Custer and along all of US 216's routing. The 216 designation was retired, and thus brought to an end a highway route that had lasted all of four years.
"Rocky Mountain Roads", US Highway 216
. September 22, 2005. <http://www.rockymountainroads.com/us-216_wy.html> (April 2007)
Droz, Robert V., "Sequential List of US Highways", US Highways From US 1 to US 830
. July 2003. <http://www.us-highways.com/us1830.htm> (April 2007)
Sanderson, Dale. "Highway Ends", End of Historic US Highway 216
. 2000-2005. < http://www.geocities.com/usend1019/End216/end216.htm>. (April 2007).